Less than a month ago the University of Tennessee football program suffered a huge blow as Lane Kiffin was moving on to become the head coach at Southern Cal. The timing of this was terrible as National Signing Day was just around the corner. As Kiffin left, so did many of the Vols top recruits. In the first few days after Kiffins departure the Vols had lost DT Brandon WIllis to North Carolina and many other top recruits. Just a few days later Tennessee introduced their new head coach Derek Dooley. Everyone thought right then that Tennessee's recruiting class would suffer a huge blow. Now let's fast forward the February 3, 2010 (National Signing Day). It's hard to believe but Tennessee's recruiting class is ranked 9th in the country.
In this article I will break down all the Tennessee recruits by position. If you want to take a look at the Vols future read this. Not to mention you can see a video of the TN recruits if you read this article.
Tyler Bray (4 star, pictured above): By the time Spring Practice is over, most likely Bray will be named the signal caller for the Vols.
Bray has tremendous upsides as he stands at 6'6 and has tremendous field vision. Hold on, wasn't there a quarter back at Tennessee a while back that had that type of frame? Yes, that man was Peyton Manning. Just like Manning Bray is very intelligent and a accurate passer. However, there are also many things he needs to work on if he wants to make it to the next level. Right now Bray is like a twig. His height is great but he only weighs 190 pounds and isn't filled out. There is no way he could take a severe pounding from opposing defensive ends. Also he needs to work on his foot speed, as he seems to almost be a little flat footed when he drops back in the pocket.
Other than that though, there aren't many flaws in this Californian's game.
Bray threw for 3321 yards and 41 touchdowns in his senior year at Kingsburg High School.
Matt Simms (3 star): Football is in this young man's genes. After all he is the son of former great NFL QB Phil Simms and his brother is current NFL QB Chris Simms. Simms is a JuCo transfer from El Camino College where he played in 10 games last year throwing for 2204 yards and 17 touchdowns but also 12 interceptions. His poise and leadership are tremendous as well as his release of the football. While he still needs to improve his accuracy and consistency. Expect Simms to battle it out with Bray and Senior Nick Stephens for the starting job.
Nash Nance (2 star): Nance wasn't recruited by Tennessee because they thought he could be their solution for a new starting quarterback, instead it was a plan for Tennessee to try to get his teammate Da'Rick Rogers to join him in Knoxville. That plan worked out perfectly. Nance originally committed to Vanderbilt but with just than two weeks left till National Signing Day Tennessee invited them to Knoxville for a visit. He and Rogers both came one weekend and they liked it so much they came back for another just a week later. Nance is a decent quarterback though, but don't expect him to factor in to the battle for the starting QB job.
Nance threw for 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns his senior year at Calhoun High School in Georgia.
Rajion Neal (4 star): This was one of Dooley's big steals as he lured Rajion Neal away from Mississippi State. Neal was the lone running back signed by the Volunteers this year, as they are already stacked at the running back position with Bryce Brown and David Oku.
Neal has an impressive build as he is listed at 5'11 and weighs 214 pounds. Rivals ranked him as the 9th top running back in the nation for this years recruiting classes and ranked him as the 11th best prospect in the state of Georgia. Neal's strengths are his balance, power, and toughness. While some of his flaws are his acceleration and breakaway speed.
I expect to see him get some playing time in the special teams area and maybe even possibly in goaline situations as a fullback or power running back.
Da'Rick Rogers (5 star, pictured above): There is no doubt that Rogers is the standout player in the Vols recruiting class this year, after all he is ranked as the 9th best prospect in the nation and number 2 wide out. Not to mention, he is also one of the biggest steals. Tennessee pried Rogers out of the Bulldogs hands and left the Bulldogs feeling like they did after the Tennessee vs. Georgia game this year. So expect to see the rivalry intense even more.
There is no doubt Rogers will be starting his freshman year as he is an incredible wide out. NFL scouts have already been comparing this 18 year old to Calvin Johnson. Yes, he's that good. When you look at him on tape, you will have trouble finding any flaws in his game. As he has tremendous speed, size (6'3), strength, agility, and ball skills. Most impressive though is his 41 inch vertical leap. Compare that to Markeith Amble's (another 5 star WR) 32 inch vertical leap.
Expect this young man to make a huge difference in the passing game as a true freshman.
Justin Hunter (4 star): Justin Hunter was another great steal for the Vols as they took him from Les Miles and LSU. Hunter is ranked as the 5th best Wide Receiver in this years recruiting class. He has tremendous agility, ball skills, and leaping ability but has to gain more strength.
Like Rogers expect Hunter to be starting as a freshman. He will be a big target when the Vols reach the red zone as he is listed at 6'4. He strikes a similar resemblance to the Carolina Panther's Dwayne Jarrett.
Matt Milton (4 star): The 6'6 wide out from Mascoutah, Illinois is another one of the Vols great 2010 WR recruiting class. He is ranked as the 18th best wide receiver prospect in the country as he shows great body control and especially size. One noticeable thing he needs to work on though is his route running skills.
Even though Milton most likely wont start he will still be a big factor in the Vols passing game in 2010-2011,
Ted Meline (4 star): Rounding out the Vols tremendous wide out class for the 2010 season is the Miami, Florida native Ted Meline. Meline is 6'2 and weighs 171 pounds. He is very quick and has great hands and concentration. One of the view downsides about Meline is his quickness of the line. Overall though Meline is a typical 2nd or 3rd string WR in a conference like the SEC.
Mychal Rivera (3 star): Rivera is one of the 4 JuCo transfers that Tennessee landed, as well as the lone TE recruit.
Rivera last year played at College of the Canyons where he caught 32 passes for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is a decent blocker but he just isn't the right size to be a very effective TE. He is 6'4 and only weighs 230 pounds. These days usually the typical TE is about 6'6 and over 260 pounds. It will be interesting to see what the Vols will do with Rivera.
Channing Fugate (3 star, pictured above): This kid is a bulldozer he can knock a Linebacker who is about 50 pounds heavier than him right on their backs. Fugate is 6'2 and weights 225 pounds. He has tremendous balance, size, tackle-breaking ability but needs to work on his breakaway speed. If you take a look at his video you can also see that he really can find the wholes in the defense and when he sees them he hits them hard. If the coaches at UTK are smart they should try him out at full back or put him in on goaline situations to power across the pylons.
In his junior year at Breathitt County High School in Kentucky, he rushed for 3,052 yards and 36 touchdowns! While the next year he ran for 1,332 and 17 touchdowns.
Marques Dixon (3 star): Tennessee signed another player from the Peach-tree state in that of Marques Dixon from Decatur, Georgia. Dixon is 5'10 and weighs 182 pounds. His best fit would be playing Cornerback as he is very good in man coverage and has great recovery ability. He needs to work on his backpedal quickness and his coverage awareness though before he can be considered into the Vols starting lineup.
Jawuan James (4 star, pictured above): The offensive lineman from Suwanee, Georgia is one of the best offensive lineman coming out of this years 2010 recruiting class. He is ranked as the 8th best OL prospect and 55th overall in the EPSN U Top 150.
James is listed at 6'3 293, which perfectly fits an offensive lineman in the SEC. He has great agility and foot quickness for a lineman as he runs the 40 in 5.3 seconds.
There is a great chance that he could be starting in his first year on campus.
James Stone (4 star): Stone waited until National Signing Day to make his decision between the Vols and Crimson Tide. The big man from Maplewood, TN elected to stay within his states boundaries as he chose the Vols. "I'm just more comfortable at Tennessee", said the 6'5 297 pounder.
Stone is an Underarmour All-American and one of the most highly touted OL in this years recruiting class as was Jawuan. He also is a great possibility to get a starting job next year.
Zach Fulton (3 star): Fulton is even bigger than Jawuan and James as he is 6'4 and weighs 306 pounds. His greatest strength is his drive blocking. He is fit for a power running game. He and the other two big men are a real scary trio.
Fulton played H.S. football at Homewood Flossmoor in Illinois.
Marquis Pair (3 star): The talented offensive lineman from Sumter, SC is very quick. He runs the 40 in 5.2 seconds. His strengths are his pass protection and technique while he still needs to gain more power and strength as he is only 266 pounds.
Expect him to be a big impact a few years down the road.
Jacques Smith (4 star, pictured above): "Jacques is a huge force when it comes to getting to the QB," H.S coach Benny Monroe said. Indeed he was as he compiled 22 sacks in his last two years of high school football in Ooeltewah, Tennessee. Luckily enough I was able to see this tremendous athlete play on numerous occasions over the last couple of years. Let me tell you something though when you get up next to this kid you might just pass out he is so big and scary looking. Smith has many great aspects in the way he plays the game as he has great speed, strength, agility, and lateral pursuit. He just needs to put on a lot more weight as he is only listed at 225 pounds. When he gets that weight put on with the help on Tennessee's trainers look for him to be a huge force in the pass rushing game.
Corey Miller (4star): Miller is one of the country's best DL prospects from the 2010 class, as Rivals has him ranked as the 5th best defensive end in the country. Corey has great speed, size, and agility. He was an ESPN Under Armour All-American as a Senior. He could quite possibly earn a starting job as a freshman.
John Brown (4 star): Brown is a JuCo transfer from Northeast Mississippi Community College. He has unbelievable size as he is listed at 6'2 300 pounds. His strength is his greatest upside while his downside is his quickness. He could factor into the Vols starting lineup this season.
John Propst (3 star): There's no doubt that the linebacker position was the weakest position upgraded by the Vols 2010 class as John Propst was the lone ranger. Propst played his high school football in Alabama. He is 6'2 215 which is one of his disadvantages. His strengths are his discipline, instincts, and block shedding. Propst will be a good backup plan for most of his career at UT as it seems that the Vols already have the middle linebacker position locked down.
Eddrick Loften (4 star, pictured above): Loften is one of the best incoming freshman safeties in the nation. He is ranked 14th in the position overall and one of the top 5 hardest hitting safeties. Does this remind you of anybody. Eric Berry? Maybe, we will just have to wait and see. Loften had a remarkable Senior season at Nimitz H.S. in Irving, TX as he recorded 128 tackles and had 4 interceptions. Not to mention TX H.S. football is the best of the best, so all things are looking great for this young mans career at Tennessee.
With Eric Berry gone look for Loften to receive immediate playing time. He and Janzen Jackson will be a tremendous duo.
Dave Clark (4 star): Clark is a JuCo transfer from Independence Community College in Kansas. He has great size for a DB as he is 6'2 and weighs in at 195. His greatest strength is his quickness. His 40 yard dash time is 4.4 seconds. He has been through some severe injuries though and Tennessee needs to take lots of caution with that as he could be an impact player.
Dontavis Sapp (2 stars): Sapp is another Peach-tree boy who has come and signed with the Vols. He has good size for a corner as he is 6'3. He doesn't have all the talent in the world but the Vols must have seen something in him and hopefully they will find that out this year.
Michael Palardy (3 star): Palardy is a huge signing for UTK as everyone knows how bad they struggling in their kicking game last year. Now though they will have a freshman coming in that is ranked number the 2nd best freshman kicker in the nation. He has a very long range and is capable of hitting as long as 55 yards. He will make a huge difference this year for the Vols.
Derek Dooley and his team at the moment are very excited about the way their recruiting class ended up. They have landed some big time players that will make a huge impact as freshman's on the team. Even though so many people keep saying that it looks to be another type of rebuilding year since Kiffin left, Dooley and his players don't think that way one bit. They have the makings of a great team that can compete with the best of the best. The season and home opener for the 2010-2011 campaign will be against Tennessee-Martin. Expect to see many of Tennessee's top recruits play in that game. The ones to watch for specifically though throughout the entire season will be Da'Rick Rogers, Justin Hunter, Tyler Bray, and Eddrick Loften.
Orange Nation is once again well suited up and ready to go.